Matthias Wissmann, president of the German vehicle manufacturers trade association, the Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA), has advised new car buyers to go for fuel efficient cars. “The best answer to rising fuel prices is to buy a fuel efficient and therefore also low-CO2 emitting car,” said Wissmann in a television interview.

According to the German press agency, Wissmann said that German vehicle manufacturers already have 50 models that use less than five litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.

Wissmann also called for CO2-related taxation, to make low CO2 cars more cost competitive.

Since his appointment last month, Wissmann has changed the tack of the VDA’s approach to the CO2 debate. Instead of defending the German motor industry as an important employer under attack from environmentalists, he has called for a more open debate and offered reassurance that the industry will develop more fuel-efficient cars.

Wissmann appears to be setting the scene for his members, the vehicle manufacturers, to be able to focus on developing and offering new cleaner technologies, with the support from the market. Many private car buyers appear to have been holding off buying new cars in the light of the current CO2 debate and uncertainty about a future CO2 related tax system.

At the end of last month, DaimlerChrysler chairman Dieter Zetsche said that once the issue comes down to technology his company is well placed to address it. German vehicle manufacturers in particular have offered low fuel consumption vehicles in the past but had to take them off the market because customers have been unwilling to pay the extra cost for these vehicles.